About 50,000 people attended the commemorations of the 11th anniversary. For one survivor, "The martyrs inspire us to bear witness to Christ". "We cannot accept the hatred against Christians spread by extremists in India,” said president of victims’ association.
Cuttack-Bhubanewsar (AsiaNews) – The martyrs of Kandhamal "will live among us forever," believe survivors of the anti-Christian violence that broke out 11 years ago on 29 August 2008, in the Indian state of Odisha (Orissa).
To mark the occasion, the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar held ceremonies in four deaneries to commemorate those who lost their lives so as not to deny the Christian faith. Some 50,000 people participated in the events.
"God created man in his own image and likeness. This is why every inhuman act of violence against members of religious minorities is truly sad and unfortunate," said Fr Pradosh Chandra Nayak, Vicar General of the Archdiocese. "Fears and threats, worries and anxieties, pain and agony are still fresh," he added.
In August 2008, Hindu radicals launched the worse anti-Christian pogrom in recent Indian history. When it was all over, 120 people were dead, 56,000 had been forced to flee, 12,000 displaced children had been forced to suspend their studies, 40 women had been raped (including Sister Meena Barwa, nice of the current Archbishop John Barwa), and 8,000 homes had been torched or looted in 415 villages. Kandhamal district was the most affected.
On 29 August, about 3,000 Christians gathered in Our Lady of Charity parish in Raikia, one of the villages attacked by extremists. A memorial Mass was held not only for Christians martyred because of their faith, but also for the victims of acts of violence based on religion or belief, whose first International Memorial Day was held on 22 August.
"Today we remember victims and survivors,” said Paul Pradhan, one of the survivors of sectarian violence in Kandhamal. “This way, we can show solidarity to the martyrs who courageously faced persecution and death for their faith in Christ. We cannot forget the martyrs who inspire and motivate us to bear witness to Christ, despite persecution and death threats."
Bipro Charian Nayak, president of the survivors' association, slams the climate of intolerance towards the Christian minority. "We cannot accept the hatred against Christians spread by extremists in India,” he said
In his view, “All governments have the duty to prosecute those who commit acts of violence and must condemn persecution in the name of faith in India, which is a secular country.”
What is more, “Religious freedom is a fundamental right. Everyone has the right to freely choose and live their faith. We ask all governments to protect this inalienable right and the country's minorities."